NEW YORK -- The keepsake has long since vanished, but Robinson Cano still keeps the memory safely stored. As a child in the Dominican Republic, he remembers the excitement of having a professional ballplayer reach out to make a personal connection.
Cano said that Gerald Williams, the former Yankee, once tossed him a pair of his batting gloves. It was probably an insignificant gesture for Williams, but Cano used those gloves every day. He still thinks about them now that he is in a position to give back.
"I was a kid. I know how it is when you see a Major Leaguer," Cano recalled recently. "He was the first guy that gave me a batting glove. That's always something that I have in my mind."
As the Yankees celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Cano's contributions to the community are deserving of note. The second baseman has been actively involved with his RC24 Foundation, which was founded with a mission statement to "positively impact the lives of underserved children and communities from New York to the Dominican Republic."
Through the foundation, Cano donated eight ambulances, medical supplies, paramedic crew training and children's toys to the impoverished Dominican Republic city of San Pedro de Macoris.
Since 2005, Cano has also regularly visited terminally ill patients at New Jersey's Hackensack University Medical Center, where a pediatric ward has been named in his honor. Many of those patients have been invited to visit Yankee Stadium as VIPs, observing batting practice on the field and watching the game with their families.
"I like to do my things quietly," Cano said. "I don't go around and say, 'I'll do this,' or, 'I'm doing that.' It's important because I know where I'm coming from. We don't have that much help [in the Dominican]. If I have the chance and I can help, why not?"
This summer, Cano's foundation partnered with the Dream Project, which works to improve education in the Dominican Republic. Cano said that he hopes to soon celebrate the opening of a school.
"I've been blessed to be able to play this game so well for this short period of my career," Cano said. "To be able to stay healthy and play with a lot of future Hall of Famers and superstars, and play in the great city of New York, where you've got a lot of people to help... Why not get the chance to do stuff and give back to your community, support them and help them?"
Also as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Yankees have recognized individuals from the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame, honoring them in special on-field ceremonies.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.